Last night at the Chasing the Dragon Screening in Raleigh, Steve and I met Dr. Sarah Desmarais. She is a Psychology Professor at NC State University. She is very interested in dual diagnosis treatment of mental illness and substance use disorders, research and data. She commended us for our efforts and offered to provide any help she can to the Coalition. 
We connected with Sandy Bell, the Founder and Director of The Wilmington Healing Center, a faith based nonprofit organization which provides life skills training, support groups, a mentoring program, transitional support, and other community resources. 
We also met Carman Poindexter, author of: A Mother’s Prayer and founder of MPAC Ministries (Mother’s Praying for Adult Children). They meet the 1st, 3rd and 5th Sundays of each month at 4:00 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall of Wrightsville Beach Baptist Church. Carman has invited me to come speak at one of their meetings. 
One thing that really stood out to me in this meeting is how huge the task is before us. The primary issues addressed were stigma, treatment, prevention and how parents can best deal with children who suffer from addiction and mental health issues. It was clear to me that there are no clear cut definitive answers. Those who suffer from addiction and mental health issues are multifaceted individuals with multifaceted challenges and multifaceted factors which lead to addiction. Addressing these issues is going to require a very complex and multifaceted approach to address each individual and meet their needs. 
I believe the first step in confronting this is talking about it to spread awareness and education to overcome stigma. Unfortunately, the reality is, we’ve only just begun to talk about it. The solutions are only going to come by taking a stand to end stigma and many round table discussions with our communities, health care providers and our elected officials who are willing to hear us and work with us to strategize and implement policy and legislative reforms to offer more effective, multifaceted treatment options which are more easily accessible and able to meet the needs of each individual. 
The thing that bothers me the most about this is, how many more will die during the timeframe it will take us to accomplish this? We can’t be lazy and approach this half-heartedly. We must be passionate, speak up, speak out, encourage others to become involved, step out of our comfort zones, seek understanding, reach out to those we normally wouldn’t, ask questions, share our thoughts and ideas, and demand our elected officials make it a priority to help us in devising solutions to this crisis. 
God help us! We’re only just beginning!